Morrissey, Wittgenstein, Einstein, Endlicher.

First off, I am not an art critic and this is not art criticism (or as Magritte would say, 'ceci n'est pas une critique') so hopefully you won't be reading these words in one of Mr Endlicher's paintings.

That's a relief: I hate art criticism - at least attempts at encapsulating a work of art that rely on the aesthetic. In fact when I hear the word 'critic' I reach for my gun. At worst - and this is the view prevalent in the UK, art criticism is little more than advertising copy - and British advertising is among the best there is: many in advertising think they are engaged in the business of creating 'art'.

And yet there needs to be a discourse about art, hopefully freed from the constraints of political correctness (with its attendant familiar, relativism) and of nostalgia (-algia being a suffix in English that denotes pain). Where can this take place?
At best the gallery wherever art interfaces with the consumer, confronted with the work (and preferably with a glass of chilled champagne in one's hand), as a spectator sport in the mass media (where Ruskin's neurotic artificiality and Orwell's transparent honesty meet), or on canvas as in Mr Endlicher's Kritikbilder?
But art criticism isn't confined to words: Dali used the very frames his paintings were exhibited in to express his own critical viewpoint. Mr Endlicher's Kritikbilder can be seen as a partially ironic framing of a critic's words.

Art, like music, expresses something in a unique way that eludes description. The sleeve notes for a CD are no substitute for listening, even musical notation is shockingly imprecise, or every orchestra would sound the same. If it can be rendered in any other form then Art is not really doing it's job.

Professor John Carey in his recent book 'What good are the arts' points out that literature is the only art form that can criticise itself (though Duchamp and Manzoni made a pretty good attempt) he obviously hasn't seen Mr Endlicher's work. For the critic who can't paint, this may be the nearest his criticism comes to being art itself (short of blowing out his brains onto a canvas - Pollockicide and if he can't do it himself I have my little list.)

Professor Carey defines art as anything that has ever been considered as such (including an urinal, as long as it's moved out of the gents toilets and into the gallery.) If art is defined by the response it elicits do we need art criticism? The things we no-longer need are best junked or re-cycled: Mr Endlicher prefers the environmentally-friendly route.

Wittgenstein (I had to mention a famous Austrian in this essay somewhere), describing the impossibility of a private language touches on the subject: we can never know the emotions that occur in other's heads, all we can do is approximate the meanings of the words used to describe them. Appreciation of art is therefore a collective experience of private emotions (too private to make sense) so can it be captured in words directed at the masses?
To paraphrase that most critical of pop stars, Morrissey, art criticism 'says nothing to me about my life'. Mr Endlicher's Moralspiegel series offer as the series title suggests, a moral mirror. One has the choice of two hangings whilst being able to watch yourself make the decision. As in mediaeval painting the moral action is in the foreground.

I don't believe it's the immediate reflection that is most valuable (I know what my face looks like, I have to shave it every morning), but that which lies 'over the shoulder' to speak, glimpsed out of the corner of the eye. Morality does not exist in a vacuum, however much theologians would wish us to believe: it occupies a moral landscape: the garden of Eden, early Imperial Jerusalem, the dawning of the dark ages. Any 19th century colonial governor would recognise Pilate's decision as good practice, many kings have relieved themselves of troublesome priests.

With the possible exception of Cranach whose characters are not mere ciphers, it's the backgrounds of the interminable series of mediaval Madonnas that hold my attention - something the artist is privileged to see but his subjects cannot. It's that privilege which plucks out an artist from the common crowd.

The Virgin sits, not in the quiet loggia, not by the green pasture of the restored soul, but houseless, under the shelter of a palace vestibule ruined and abandoned, with the noise of the axe and the hammer in her ears, and the tumult of a city round about her desolation. The spectator turns away at first revolted, from the central object of the picture forced painfully and coarsely foward, a mass of shattered brickwork, with the plaster mildewed away from it and the mortar mouldering from its seams.
John Ruskin, on Tintoretto's Scuola di San Rocco Annunciation

Art itself does not evolve in a vacuum. Understanding where Punk music came from requires knowledge of (and hatred of) the fatuous disco that preceded it. You cannot understand (though you can perhaps appreciate) TS Eliot or Ezra Pound without looking at the straitjacket they were escaping from, as claustrophobic as the art salons which, via the midwifery of Impressionism, spawned the 'modern' art movement.

I am fortunate enough to walk almost every day along a stretch of road that inspired Eliot's 'The Waste Land' - and the poem's sentiments, written nearly one hundred years ago, still holds true. The drudge-daily office workers that cross London Bridge every evening are still as lost as the souls in Dante's limbo:

Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine

That tiny fragment of Elliot's vision (paraphrasing Dante), summons up to those who have read it, the whole image conveyed in the poem - and the poem is so full of images, mostly borrowed, that it can expand to inhabit, if not define a life. The best Art can encapsulate a whole range of feelings and compress them to a portable and transmissable form. In Endlicher's Dramenbleche the whole pot-noodle of existance is present: Boy/Gun/War just about sums up the evils at the dark heart of central Africa; Girl/Body/Shame deserves a place on the walls of every fashion magazine's offices.

Which brings me on to another subject from my title. One of the consequences of Mr Einstein's theories is the black hole and the mysterious entity that lies at the heart of it: the singularity. A point of infinite smallness and infinite density: the Haiku of the universe.
While Einstein was postulating his theories on the structure of the space/time continuum, TS Eliot was struggling with the art/reader continuum expressed in the Imagism of Pound and his followers: poetry so dense that any formal 'sense' can't escape: these black holes of poetry can only be experienced indirectly. Eliot developed his own 'special theory of poetic relativity' by snatching words from writers as far apart as Huxley, Wagner, Dante, Baudelaire, Ovid, Hesse and Nerval, as well as snatches of conversations heard in London pubs: painted onto his canvas they coalesce to form one precise, though undefinable image: hinted at in Dore's engravings, but larger and more powerful - they shook the world of poetry to its roots.

The idea of 'objects trouves' took root in art, through Braque to Duchamp to Laurie Anderson and could be said to exist today, in a bastardised (and some might say despoiled) version in hip hop. After all, with words it's not neologism that counts (or James Joyce would be readable), but counterpoint, which is why no-one reads 'Ulysses' and 'The Waste Land' is still one of the most popular poetic works - it's brevity and compression speak more than Joyce's verbal peregrinations (as interminable as the travels of their eponymous hero).

And so to Mr Endlicher. Firstly, he has found a use for art criticism: recycle it back into art, short of nailing art critics to the walls of art galleries, I can't think of a better use. In the 1960's the English artist Tom Phillips 'recycled' a third rate victorian novel 'A human Monument' into art by painting out the pages, leaving only a few words visible to encapsulate the designs. His words, taken from the introduction to the new Thames and Hudson edition (Apr 2005, and long overdue) echo Elliot:
I plundered, mined and undermined its text to make it yield the ghosts of other possible stories, scenes, poems, erotic incidents and surrealist catastrophes which seemed to lurk within its wall of words. As I worked on it, I replaced the text I'd stripped away with visual images of all kinds. I began to tell and depict.

Secondly, by compressing design and text in his metal works Endlicher is aiming for the same singularity of mood as Eliot and Phillips, the haiku of modernism. If a work of art can compress and transmit a moment of emotion across continents and centuries then it has earned immortality - another honourable task.

And lastly Endlicher's art is art you can use. For his Votivbilder paintings he produced a series of postcards. One of them is tacked to the fridge of a friend of mine in Greenwich Village in New York - when his boyfriend gets home he knows just how his lover is feeling. And facilitating love is the most honourable task of them all.

Simon Crutchley, 2005. Educated at Oxford and Cambridge universities and trained by Theatr Clwyd, Dr Crutchley was Output Editor for BBC news for many years. In the 1980s he was manager/artistic director of OUCP Theatre company and also ran a small bagnio in France. He currently edits the London Tourist Guide, plays bass in his rock band, Airbaby, and is writing a novel on the difficulties of suddenly turning Japanese.